Parks' Race Reactions: Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta

Dustin ParksAnalyst ISeptember 7, 2010

HAMPTON, GA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, performs a burnout to celebrate after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 5, 2010 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

It's not often that a race gives you every aspect of racing, from green to checkered. But, Sunday's race in Atlanta had all that.

There were Chase ramifications, strong cars falling out because of issues, and the dominant car taking the checkered flag. Atlanta always provides some of the best action of the season, and once again it did not disappoint.

So, with that being said, why waste any more time? Here are my race reactions for Sunday night's Emory Healthcare 500.

I first have to give a call once again to the Atlanta Motor Speedway staff because they are making this one of the go-to races of the season. I admit, I am a bit sad that this track is losing a date next season, but at the same time I can understand why.

Let's be honest, the March race is not exactly the most pleasant of times in Georgia. The race the last few years has been plagued by cold temperatures, overcast skies and sometimes rain. The last one has forced NASCAR to run on Monday, and that's something no one wants to do.

Attendance at the track during that weekend has been down for a while, and even the drivers admit it's sad when such a great track doesn't have the seats full.

But having this track host the Labor Day weekend has been an incredible move, even though it's in its second year.

Last year's race was nearly sold out and was almost to that point again this year, proving one thing: Sometimes only one race is needed to make an impact.

Darlington got reduced to one race in 2004 and also went under the lights. I don't see many people complaining about that move, because that track has flourished since that move.

Maybe Atlanta will have the same kind of success, but only time will tell.

Now, on to the race.

The big thing in this race was the huge Chase ramifications that resulted because of it. First off, Denny Hamlin has lost a lot of momentum in the last few months.

I know Hamlin's team could be experimenting for when the Chase begins; if so, this race was a complete failure in that regard. But I do applaud the effort.

At this point, teams are trying everything to get an edge on Jimmie Johnson heading into the Chase. For Hamlin, the best thing about the next race is that it's his hometown track. If he wants to get an advantage on Johnson, that is the place to do it.

Although, Johnson himself is showing some signs of muscle as he tries to recover from his bad night at Bristol. A third-place finish may not sound like a big thing to the No. 48, but considering how July and August were for the team, it was a welcome sight.

I still believe that Johnson is the guy to beat in the Chase, but he's vulnerable this year. He hasn't run well the last few months and has fallen back in the points.

Now is the time for the contenders to take advantage of Johnson's struggles.

At the same time, the current points leader didn't have the best of nights. Kevin Harvick had a tire shred on him late in the running, forcing him behind the wall and to a 33rd-place finish with his DNF.

Unlike Johnson, I don't think Harvick is as vulnerable to having the same luck. The reason I say that is because he has not had as many bad runs as Johnson.

That's not to say it can't happen, but personally, I believe Harvick can beat Johnson and win the title.

Finally, it was very nice to see the dominant car get back to victory lane once again. Even more fitting, it was Tony Stewart getting the victory.

Much like many other fans and media members, I have been surprised at Stewart's struggles this year. It isn't a sophomore slump as a car owner, but just an off year for his team. Sure, teammate Ryan Newman did win at Phoenix, but other than that, there have been few highlights for this organization.

But Stewart proved that he can still get the job done when it mattered most. He led the most laps, only lost the lead on pit road twice all night, and pulled away for a decisive win.

Stewart literally smoked the field in Atlanta, and everyone was happy to see the No. 14 get showered with champagne at the end of the night.

Now one race remains before the 2010 edition of the Chase. What more can happen this year to change the course of some of the championship contenders?

Will the momentum swing to another driver, or will one of the leaders continue to hold strong?

All I know is that I will have a front-row seat for all the action, and I'll be ready for anything that comes about. Let the good times roll.